SAT Scores including new categories of score reporting

Old SAT Scores Compared with New SAT Scores

The 2016 SAT will resume usage of the 1600-point system in place prior to March 2005. This replaces the 2400-point scale, which was based on 800-point sections for writing, critical reading, and mathematics. Correlation between the old scoring system and the new is possible using percentiles of all test-takers. The 48th percentile in 2006 was 1500 out of 2400, which matches 1010 on the 1600-point scale. Scores of 1900 and 1280 reflected the 88th percentile in the 2400-point scoring system and 1600-point scoring system respectively. The 99th percentile was 2200/2400 and 1480/1600. There has been some fluctuation over time in student performance on the SAT, both overall and with respect to the individual sections. The class of 2015 averaged 495 on critical reading, 511 on mathematics, and 484 on writing, which is slightly below the 2006 averages. For the most part, scores have remained within narrow ranges for the past 40 years, though with yearly mean scores between 495 and 509 for verbal and 492-519 for math, this is more accurate for the former than the latter.

Reasons for Now-Optional Essay

The return of the 1600-point scoring system is an implicit acknowledgement on the part of the College Board, the organization that owns and administers the test, of the difficulties in quantifying essay writing skills alongside other writing assessments. The fact that the essay will be optional on the new SAT reinforces this viewpoint. The SAT's required essay section has been controversial since its inception in 2005. Independent research has found a strong correlation between essay length and score, which would seem to favor verbosity over coherence. Educational organizations have also questioned the usefulness of the essay as a predictor of college success, and the differences between the SAT's randomly selected essay subject matter and the prepared essays on familiar topics that students write on college exams have been noted.

Scoring Categories for the 2016 SAT

Total scores on the new SAT are a composite of two section scores that range from 200 to 800. These sections are called "Evidence-Based Reading and Writing" and "Math." The College Board also reports 2 "Cross-Test Scores" (Analysis in Science and Analysis in History/Social Studies), 3 "Test Scores" (Reading, Writing and Language, and Math), and 7 "Subscores" (Words in Context, Heart of Algebra, Command of Evidence, Problem Solving and Data Analysis, Expression of Ideas, Passport to Advanced Mathematics, and Standard English Conventions). Test scores and cross-test scores range from 10-40, while subscores are between 1 and 15. The stated purpose of this additional data is to provide colleges with "deep insight into student readiness." It would be wise for students taking the new SAT to account for the effect that subscores may have on applications to their chosen degree programs when preparing for the test. A history department, for example, might consider an applicant's performance on the Analysis in History/Social Studies cross-test score and Command of Evidence subscore to be as important as the overall composite score, if not more so.

SAT Scoring Process

Completed answer sheets are securely transported to the College Board's processing center. For multiple-choice sections of the test, answer sheets are then scanned and analyzed on the basis of the filled-in circles, and a raw score is calculated. The raw score simply represents the number of correct answers. This raw score is then converted to a scaled score, which accounts for variations in test difficulty. Score reports reflect scaled scores rather than raw scores. The process for essay scoring is based on two independent readers, who are trained in College Board practices and policies to ensure fairness and accuracy. SAT scores are usually reported about two months after the test date, and students are generally notified by email when their scores are ready.

Criticisms of New SAT Scoring

Many educators continue to worry that SAT scores are more a reflection of socio-economic status than academic potential. According to Leon Botstein, the president of Bard College, "the only persistent statistical result from the SAT is the correlation between high income and high test scores." The new scoring features of the 2016 SAT, such as a greater number of scoring categories, are intended to mute these criticisms, as is the College Board's partnership with Khan Academy, a provider of free SAT prep. To a large group of educators and parents, however, these changes do not go far enough in addressing perceived inequities of accessibility and limitations to the SAT's usefulness. Some attack the very nature of a multiple-choice exam, pointing out that professional life rarely presents a single correct action in a landscape of clearly defined options. Others see asking appropriate questions to be a more important skill than providing "correct" answers, an ability that is not assessed on the SAT. These are all valid points, but they are not likely to override the prevailing institutional view that standardized testing is necessary.